Strictly nervous? Psychologist delves inside in the minds of Strictly Come Dancing’s ‘cursed’ couple

The psychology behind Strictly's cursed couple

Published on 12 October 2018

Strictly Come Dancing’s Seann Walsh and Katya Jones have dominated the headlines for almost a week after they were caught together on a night out.

Apologies from both sides, and a very public break up between Mr Walsh and girlfriend Rebecca Humphries, followed.

Media speculation combined with public pressure led to calls for the couple to be axed from the BBC’s flagship Saturday night show.

But despite this pressure, the pair will dance together this weekend.

So how will they be feeling, what will be going through their minds and, at the end of the day, do they deserve the criticism?

Dr Helen Driscoll is a senior lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sunderland and an expert on sexual behaviour.

Here she talks about why the public appear to have reacted so strongly to the couple’s indiscretion and just how the affected pair will be feeling knowing that the eyes of the nation will be on them this weekend.

Dr Driscoll said: “The public reaction to what happened between these two has passed some harsh judgement on them this week.

“Infidelity always piques the public interest. During human evolutionary history - as well as now - infidelity has always been quite common because it could increase reproductive success.

“However, in the ancestral environment, women risked losing the investment and protection of their partner, and men risked cuckoldry - unknowingly raising another man’s child as their own - as a result of infidelity. This means that many of us react strongly to infidelity.

“Because we feel we get to know celebrities such as those in Strictly very well, seeing them on TV each week, we have a tendency to react to significant events in their lives as if they were part of our social group, and this results in a great deal of interest when things like infidelity occur.”

Now the couple’s private lives are in the public domain, they face another layer of pressure this Saturday. How will they cope?

Dr Driscoll added: “They will probably be aware that all eyes are on them and will need a lot of resilience and composure to perform well. They may also feel the need to defend themselves against some of the criticism they have received, and may be keen to restore their public image.

“Seann and Katya may feel inclined to physically distance themselves from one another in the public eye as a signal to others that their apologies are genuine. This means that dancing together may feel psychologically very uncomfortable for them.

“Dancing is a mating display which can be used to signal mate quality in terms of strength and health. That is why dancing is common in courtship.

“Such displays are sometimes seen in non-human animals too. For example, performing a kind of dance that makes Strictly look tame, bald eagles fall through the sky holding onto each other’s talons. Their dance has been called the ‘death spiral’ and is a way of assessing the quality of their mate.

“The fact that dancing is a courtship ritual and involves such close physical contact will make it difficult for Seann and Katya to escape the perception of them as more than friends.

“Strictly has been linked to a number of celebrity relationship splits. The intimacy associated with regularly dancing with a Strictly partner may go some way towards explaining this ‘Strictly curse’.”